Baker police facing budget cuts

BAKER, LA (WAFB) - One of the safest cities in the state of Louisiana could be in big trouble.

The budget ax is about to fall on the city of Baker and the police department is facing some deep cuts.

When Officer Keith London patrols the city, his eyes and ears are on the road and every home he passes.

"I'm a big fan of helping somebody when they're in need," London said.

London is one of a dozen patrol officers whose main objective is to keep the city safe. While four of them are spread throughout the city on any given shift, he said some calls require a team effort.

"Any calls where we have to breach inside a home to help an elderly person, shots fired, even traffic stops," London said.

Home break-ins, he said, has been the biggest crime to face Baker. A police presence keeps the number of burglaries down.

The head of the Baker Police Department, Chief Mike Knaps, fears a pending $250,000 slice from his budget will change that.

"The community has not seen the affects but they will," Knaps said.

The cut means four less officers, two from his patrol division. He said retirement and an increase in healthcare have hit the city hard.

"It's not that we're spending extra money. It's not that we jacked our salaries. The fact is the benefits cost us a lot of money, but you have to offer benefits to get decent personnel," Knaps explained.

Knaps said three of his officers have applied for jobs with other agencies. If they leave, he said, it will only make matters worse.

"If I get in the position that I need to hire six or seven people, this city will suffer," Knaps said.

That translates into more work and longer hours for officers like London who already spend 12 hours on the road every day.

Mayor Harold Rideau said the city does not have the money to fund a fully staffed police department.

He added cuts will also be made to the public works and building and maintenance departments.

The budget cuts would take effect next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

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